Monday, February 18, 2013

1st Sunday of Lent Cycle C Feb 17, 2013

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord 
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.”
    So proclaims St. Paul in our second reading today to the Romans.

OK.  Being saved, Salvation, is what Christianity sells.  It is our product.  It is what we offer you.

So,   ¿Do you want to be saved?  Do you have a need to be saved?  Are you yearning and longing for salvation?  Apparently, today, for a lot of people this is NOT a felt need.

          If your life is going along pretty well, if your health is OK, if you have a fairly decent job, if your relationships are not in turmoil, if you have an array of various toys and material possessions, if you are basically satisfied, then you very well might not have a burning concern for salvation.  Salvation may not even be attractive to you because things are by and large pretty good the way they are.  What is there to be saved from?   What is there to be saved for?  
          And that lack of a felt need for salvation is a real problem.  If you are comfortable with how your life is now, that is a great danger.
          Lent is a time to get uncomfortable.  Lent is a time to recognize the danger of contentment.  Lent is a time to get in touch with our need, our desperate need, for salvation and hence for a Savior.  
          In our first reading today the Israelites recalled their need for a savior.  They recited “When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.” 
          As modern Texans it may seem difficult, even ridiculous, for us to identify with that statement.  We have never been slaves.  We are not maltreated and oppressed.  So what need to do we have for deliverance, for emancipation, for a savior? 
          To quote the medieval theologian St. Anselm, “you have not yet considered what a heavy burden sin is.” 
          Anyone who has tried to break a bad habit of using swear words, or of gossip, or of  a habit of lying, or of procrastination,     much less anyone who has tried to get out of the bondage of alcoholism, or addiction to pornography, or to drugs or racial prejudice, knows that these are tenacious and cruel oppressions. 
          Who has not experienced this dilemma?  We know what we must do to do good.  I know I shouldn’t eat that second chocolate glazed donut.  And we want to do the good.  I want to lose weight.  But we are weak and enslaved and against our better will we do what is evil.  St. Paul says: So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.  For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Miserable one that I am!  Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Rom 7:18-24
          Like St Paul none of us can conquer sin on our own.  All of us are caught, ensnared and enmeshed in the tangle of hate, greed, lust, sloth, selfishness and fear.   Where can we find someone so free, so true to God and to himself, as to provide for us not just an example, but a helping hand?   Where can we find someone not caught in the web of sin who can show us the way out?  Where can we find a Savior?
          In the Gospel today we see that person.  Jesus is tempted to rely on material things, on power, and on fame.  Each time Jesus decidedly and definitively puts God first.  One does not live on bread alone,” implying the second part of that quote from the Book of Dueteronomy 8:3 “but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.”    
And then “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”
And finally “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
          Jesus consistently puts God first, which is where God belongs.  Jesus is the one who can set us free from the bondage to sin and save us to live fully as God’s beloved children. 
          This Lent I urge you to confront the ways are you are bound and enslaved to the forces of greed, of fear, of selfishness, anger and lust:  to all the ways we humans are in need of redemption.  Jesus can be a Savior for us only if we recognize our need for a savior.  Jesus offers us salvation.  But we have to recognize, and to feel, our need for it.
          For “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

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